LETTERS READ: Welcome!

LETTERS READ is the ongoing series of live events in which local performers interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities. Several readings are podcast here

News & Events for the 2019 LETTERS READ Season

News first. We are delighted to announce that Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities has awarded LETTERS READ a Rebirth Grant for the 2020 programming season. *

Additionally, LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, Corners Foundation, and The Reba Judith Sandler Foundation have each awarded grants for next year.

LETTERS READ Anniversary & Fundraising Bash was held Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 at Orange Couch in New Orleans. It was a rousing success and we thank everyone who joined us and celebrated! There was a special reading by Christopher Kamenstein and the project director, stationer, Nancy Sharon Collins. Visual accompaniment was by Jeffrey Killion.

If you were unable to attend and would like to make a donation, go to antenna.works/donate/ and make sure to check the box that says, “Write us a comment” and include: “For LETTERS READ 2020 Season”.

Questions? Contact us!

LETTERS READ: Baroness de Pontalba

Wednesday, September 25, 2019 at the Cabildo, Louisiana State Museum.

The Louisiana Museum FoundationLouisiana State MuseumLetters Read, and Antenna, brought an intimate, performative evening celebrating a love for history, architecture, and a unique understanding of our relationship with property.

For one night only, professional actors read and interpreted contemporary and historic communications surrounding the exhibit The Baroness de Pontalba & the Rise of Jackson Square at the Louisiana State Museum’s Cabildo.

This event weaves the legacy of Don Andrés Almonester (1728–1798), his formidable daughter, Micaela, the Baroness de Pontalba (1795–1874), and specific members of her descendent family into an exploration of our notions of property and property ownership.

Special guests included readers Christopher KamensteinGrace Kennedy, and Nicole Horne.

“Spanish Cabildo” by artist Jim Blanchard, 1992. From the exhibition The Baroness de Pontalba & The Rise of Jackson Square at the Cabildo, French Quarter, New Orleans. The drawing was lent by Paul St. Martin and photographed by Advocate staff photographer Chris Granger.

LETTERS READ: Lafcadio Hearn, Revisited

Sunday, August 25th, 2019
5:00-6:30 pm
Crescent City Books
124 Baronne Street, New Orleans
Admission is free, open to the public, and seating is limited.

We are excited to re-present a very special selection of letters by Lafcadio Hearn. The evening will be emceed by Christopher Kamenstein and feature readings by Mack C. Guillory III and Grace Kennedy.

Hearn is often credited with popularizing New Orleans in the late 1800’s through articles in Scribner’s, Harper’s Weekly, Cosmopolitan, The Century Magazine, and Harper’s Bazaar, describing the mystique and intrigue of the city to the rest of the world. In 1886, Hearn summered in Grande Isle, Louisiana, to research a new book he was writing. It would be published as Chita: A Memory of Last Island. The novella is based on the last barrier island of L’Ile Dernicre which was completely destroyed in the 1856 hurricane.

During his stay at Krantz’s Hotel, Hearn wrote often to Page Baker. Baker was the editor of the Times-Democrat and steadfast champion of Hearn’s work. During this correspondence, Hearn’s message and tone turned from his typical, flowery, post-Victorian style to dark and accusing. Why?

In this second reading of Hearn’s letters from Grande Isle, we examine possible reasons for his letter’s unusual subject matter and uncharacteristic language. Join us as we explore a writer’s environment and discover possible motives.

Special thanks to Kure Croker, information consultant and to Loyola University New Orleans Special Collections & Archives for providing letters from their Lafcadio Hearn Correspondence Collection

Krant’z Hotel, a popular late-1800s and early 1900s resort on Grand Isle, Louisiana. Image: Greater Grand Isle Historical Society.

LETTERS READ: CODEX II Open Mic Night

Saturday, July 20, 2019
6:00 to 7:30 pm
Crescent City Books
124 Baronne Street, New Orleans, across from the Roosevelt Hotel.
Listen to Thinking Outside the Book and Jessica Peterson talk about her relationship with her favorite books
Watch and listen to Charlie Bishop talk about erasing his doctoral dissertation here.

ABC@PM, Crescent City Books, and Letters Read present a second open mic night for book nerds. CODEX is a conversation about the physicality and context of interacting with and using books. Attendees are encouraged to bring any book they’d like sharing! Loads of conversations about the interaction with and what is a book are a goal. NOTE: In the interest of time, the first 10 nerds who arrive and sign-in to share their book, or books, will be given 10 minutes to do so in this session.
Questions? Contact: lettersread512@gmail.com.

1945 Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan, Heritage Press. Mass produced editions often included a slip case, newsletter, and original illustrations.

LETTERS READ: The Desegregation of New Orleans Public Libraries

Wednesday, February 13, 2019
6:00 to 7:30 pm
Nora Navra Library
1902 St. Bernard Avenue
Admission free and open to the public. This presentation was generously underwritten by Friends of the New Orleans Public Library.
Listen to the performance here.

Mack Guillory III, Emcee. 
Julie Dietz, Reader.

The historic fight for civil rights in New Orleans is more complicated than most movements in the other 50 United States. Prior to Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era, free people of color here could legally own property. Free persons of color could even own slaves.

Another anomaly, albeit post-Jim Crow, is how and when our libraries changed from a separate but equal policy to total desegregation. Without fanfare, our libraries desegregated almost a decade prior to most of the rest of the deep South. An amazing accomplishment for a small, deeply southern town rooted in antebellum sensibilities and unique, international roots.

Join us for the story of desegregation in New Orleans libraries ca. 1954. To read more about desegregation in the Jim Crow era South, go here.

LETTERS READ: The nature of property, property ownership, and the origins of Felicity Redevelopment.

Sunday November 25, 2018
3:30 to 5:00pm
St John the Baptist Catholic Church
1139 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans
The script from this event was subsequently recorded live in the vault at Crescent City Books and was underwritten by Dorian Bennett and Felicity Redevelopment, Inc.

Twenty years ago, a Northshore, LA developer worked with New Orleans Mayor Morial, two City Council members and two Central City clergymen to demolish a 4-square city block area between St. Mary and Polymnia streets, Baronne and an altered Carondelet Streets. What was planned to replace historic, architecturally important homes was a suburban strip mall-style Albertsons grocery store more than 60,000 square feet large. Two of the four city blocks were planned to become a parking lot.

Locals and preservationists were in an uproar and a grand fight ensued.

This is the story of why and how Felicity Redevelopment began and how two women stopped the Albertsons project from being built.

Mack C. Guillory III, emcee.
Grace Kennedy, reader.
Jeffrey B. Goodman, urban planning consultant.
Kure Croker, information consultant.

“… Three houses … were dollied down Baronne Street … to make way for a new Albertsons supermarket …” —Excerpt from The Times-Picayune, August 9, 2000.

LETTERS READ: The Janet Mary Riley letters

Thursday, June 28
6:00-7:30pm at Loyola University Special Collections & Archives
J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, 3rd Floor
6363 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70118
Admission free and open to the public.
Listen to it here. The recording begins about 7 seconds in after hitting play.

Though Riley did not define herself as a second wave feminist, by today’s standards she was a quiet, fierce civil rights advocate and tireless women’s rights activist.

The Janet Mary Riley Papers reflect Riley’s academic career at Loyola University as the first female law professor in New Orleans, …Much is dedicated to her successful efforts to revise Louisiana’s community property laws to give women equal management of the community with their spouses.” —https://loynosca.omeka.net/collections/show/1

These letters represent a side of Riley few would ever know. The evening features emcee Chris Kaminstein, Co-Artistic Director of Goat in the Road Productions (GRP), and Leslie Boles Kraus.

Janet Mary Riley
“Janet Mary Riley, Colored Portrait 2 ,” Loyola University New Orleans Special Collections & Archives, accessed April 29, 2018, https://loynosca.omeka.net/items/show/33.

LETTERS READ: The Luck of Friendship

Friday, March 23rd at 1:00pm
Le Petit Theatre Du Vieux Carre

Listen to the complete event here.
The reading begins a few seconds into the recording.

Take a peek at the Tennessee Williams that only James Laughlin would have known—an intimate look through the lens of their personal letters to one another.  In the new book, The Luck of Friendship:  The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin, edited by Peggy L. Fox and Thomas Keith we share the highs and lows of this incredibly prolific, urbane, highly social Williams not necessarily seen in works for which he is famous such as Glass Menagerie and Pulitzer Prize-winning Streetcar Named Desire. As a rare and special treat, here’s the personal memory of an evening with Williams from an interview with Peter Rogers, fellow transplanted New Orleanian, and very Southern Gentleman.

Christopher Kaminstein was the emcee.

Part of the 2018 New Orleans Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, staged readings by local performers including Jean Allemond, Dante Fuoco, Reed Everette, Colin Miller, Robert Valley, Dorian Bennett, Augustin Correro, Wes McWhorter, Nick Shackleford, and emceed by Chris Kaminstein.

LETTERS READ: Text Dating

Wednesday, February 14 (that’s right, Valentines Day!)
7:00 to 9:00 pm
Antenna Gallery

3718 Saint Claude Avenue
New Orleans
Admission free and open to the public.
Listen to recordings of ACT 1. and ACT 2.

Experience longings, playfulness, desire in the abbreviated form of text messages from:

  • Mikita Brottman
    Kyle Petrozza
    Anonymous
    John Rushing
    Cate Root
    Erin Callais
    Folwell Dunbar
    Chris Kamenstein
    Charles Thomas T. Strider
    Adam Newman

LETTERS READ: Veterans Day

Saturday, November 11th, 2017
6:30 to 8:30pm
Bastion
1901 Mirabeau Avenue, New Orleans
Admission is free and open to the public.
Listen to a recording of the performance here.

LETTERS READ: Veterans Day strives to find the little moments where lives of military service members and civilians intersect.

Readings focus on love letters from The National World War II Museum, letters from United States Army Air Force officer Francis I. Cervantes (courtesy of THNOC Williams Research Center) to his mother while training for and serving in WWII and courting his new bride, and correspondence between the all-woman World War I initiative that organized, administrated, and served in the Newcomb Relief Unit overseas.

The evening features emcee Chris Kaminstein, Co-Artistic Director of Goat in the Road Productions (GRP), with original music composed and presented by Peter J. Bowling, also ensemble member of GRP. Readers include Ashton Akridge, thespian and burlesque historian, and former GRP ensemble member, Mack Guillory III.

LETTERS READ gratefully presents the Veterans Day event at Bastion, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the intentionally designed community for returning warriors and families in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.

The above image was used as an illustration for 2017 LETTERS READ: Veterans Day. It shows a child’s miniature replication of  U.S. Army wool, roll collar overcoat similar to the original “olive drab” outer garment first issued 1927, revised 1939 and 1942, and issued to every soldier along with their service uniform through and after World War II. This coat, and accessories, were made in approximately 1945 by the wife of an army officer during WWII for their young son in a time when patriotism was a strong American sentiment.